Russia’s Capitalist Realism examines how the literary tradition that produced the great works of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Anton Chekhov responded to the dangers and possibilities posed by Russia’s industrial revolution. During Russia’s first tumultuous transition to capitalism, social problems became issues of literary form for writers trying to make sense of economic change. The new environments created by industry, such as giant factories and mills, demanded some kind of response from writers but defied all existing forms of language.
This book recovers the rich and lively public discourse of this volatile historical period, which Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Chekhov transformed into some of the world’s greatest works of literature. Russia’s Capitalist Realism will appeal to readers interested in nineteenth‑century Russian literature and history, the relationship between capitalism and literary form, and theories of the novel.
About the Author
VADIM SHNEYDER is an assistant professor in the Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“It is commonplace to acknowledge, often in vague and passing terms, the rising importance of money, capitalism, and industrialization on Russian literature of the nineteenth century. Vadim Shneyder brilliantly brings the many aspects of this complex historical, political, social, and above all, economic reality to bear with stunning clarity along with important new readings of Tolstoy, Chekhov, and especially Dostoevsky, as well as a host of less-examined writers.” —Robin Feuer Miller, author of Dostoevsky’s Unfinished Journey
“Russia’s Capitalist Realism
represents a major contribution to the vibrant and growing body of scholarship on literature and economics. Russia’s inexorable move toward industrial capitalism in the mid-to-late nineteenth century brought on a clash in value systems, which became a central focus in the literature of the time. Beginning with the collapse of serfdom in mid-century, writers struggled to create a narrative and descriptive language adequate to reflect the dizzying changes taking place in the economy. To tell this story, Shneyder offers bracing new readings of money plots in familiar works by Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov and their contemporaries. Refreshingly interdisciplinary, incisive, and highly readable, this compelling book shows literature’s enduring power to make sense of its time and place.” —Carol Apollonio, author of Dostoevsky’s Secrets: Reading Against the Grain
"Everyone knows that nineteenth century Russian realist authors were generally critical of emerging capitalism. There was no Horatio Alger. The peculiarities of the Russian situation arise from its late entrance into modernity, and from the effects of the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. This latter event created a great migration of peasants to towns and cities for work, which they found in factories. What Vadim Shneyder’s must read book reveals with fresh new readings is how much this ongoing transformation lurks in the background of famous realist novels and stories and then, later in the century, moves to the foreground." —Donna Tussing Orwin, The Russian Review
“Russia’s Capitalist Realism
is a brilliant analysis of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Chekhov and provides a fresh and innovative way to analyze their writings.” —VoegelinView
“This masterly contribution to the field of nineteenth-century Russian prose fiction is a must-read for specialists, students, and the general public alike. One of its great strengths is that it encompasses not only works of Russian literature canonical in the West but also works that have been rarely if ever examined in scholarship written in English.” —Kate Holland, Canadian Slavonic Papers